Sequoia Sentinel
November 9, 2020
Sequoia PTSA's weekly eNewsletter in partnership with the Sequoia High School Education Foundation
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Editor's note: There will be an early deadline for the Nov. 30 issue of the Sentinel due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Articles for that issue are due by Monday, Nov 23. Thanks in advance!
Principal's Message
I hope everyone had a chance to review Superintendent Leach’s email from last week which outlines the work we’re doing in preparation for next semester. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. We will update Sequoia families this week as a follow-up with some Sequoia-specific information. I am also very much looking forward to this month’s PTSA meeting tomorrow night when we’ll have a chance to chat about where we’re at and where we’re headed.

Last Friday, my childrens’ elementary school celebrated “Pajama Day” as a reward for meeting a fundraising goal (yes, incentives are different with 8-year-olds). One of our “pod” parents remarked, “Isn’t every day sorta pajama day now?” It got us thinking about silver linings and what type of things we’ll one day miss when this long, wild adventure in distance learning ends and our kiddos start spending 7-10 hours a day away from home again.

In addition to perpetual pajama days, we thought of a few to add to the list of things we’ll look back on endearingly:

  1. No daily wake-up, wash-up, pack-up, load-up. The stunned silence in the car after the chaotic 30 minute scramble to get out the door has been awkward more than once for our family (“I’m sorry for yelling…”). Me being in a meeting in the kitchen while my adjacent children crunch leisurely on cereal bites is relative nirvana.
  2. Watching my kids explore their interests. Sure, I’d love it if they’d buckle down and focus a little more, but I’m also really enjoying the 1-3-day obsessions my kids develop. Trying on a British accent, Greek gods and goddesses, Dan Quayle (it’s a long story). I will miss having the context around the silly things that make them giggle or the origins of their YouTube rabbit-chases.
  3. Seeing (and hearing) their friends. We welcome 50 of our kids’ peers into our home every day in virtual classes or break-out rooms. From time-to-time, we play the fly on the wall and enjoy what’s happening in their virtual learning environments. We appreciate the perspective this gives us. It has, counter-intuitively in a time characterized by isolation, broadened our understanding of who our children spend their days with.
  4. Board games. I seriously doubt we will ever play this much Sorry! or Balderdash again.
  5. Spontaneous mid-day dance parties. Enough said about that.  

For what it’s worth, I’ve been seeing YOUR students walk leisurely to class while they munch on cereal, geek-out on some newfound obsession with their friends, giggle uncontrollably, and enjoy spontaneous mid-day dance parties for 20 years as an educator. I miss being in school together more than anybody.

I also recognize that every family is different, every individual’s story is unique. Pajama-day isn’t always a celebration when you’re dealing with teens. The frustrations of isolation, slow internet, lack of sensible sleep habits, poor diet can all make for excruciating days or weeks for even the most mindful families. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We need to recognize challenges we face managing professional responsibilities, reassuring our children in uncertain times, and trying not to let the friction of spending so much time together strain relationships. It’s a lot.

I have so much love for our single-parent families -- you are an inspiration to me.

The current running through these thoughts is connectedness. When we can identify the ways in which we are connected, it gives us strength and hope. When our connections fray, it’s a struggle. This is perhaps the defining challenge of the Distance Learning era. As we learn more over the next few weeks and engage as a community in walking this path together, I am grateful for the connectedness that gives Sequoia staff and families our strength. 

Have a great week!

Join us for the Sequoia PTSA Board Meeting on November 10th at 6:30pm. 

We will have a new format this month - a Fireside chat with Sean Priest.

If you have any topics, send us an email.

Update from our PTSA Partners - Boosters, SHSEF, Family Center - 15 min

Overview on PTSA mission and activities supported by PTSA - 10 min

Fireside Chat with Sean Priest - 45 min

PTSA Business - 30 min

To join Zoom Meeting click here.

Meeting ID: 569 274 1389

Passcode: 932885

One tap mobile:
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Welcome New Staff!
Rita Jajjo: English Department

Joining the Sequoia English department this year to teach English II ICAP and English III, is Ms. Jajjo. Her preferred pronouns are she/her/hers. Ms. Jajjo hails from New Zealand, where she attended Wellington college. While in New Zealand she taught English for three years at a private girls school, and was head of the ELD department.

When Ms. Jajjo left New Zealand, she traveled far, and landed at Palo Alto High School, where she completed her student teaching.

If she wasn’t teaching, and this is no joke, she would be a comedy writer!
Mr. Bitz: Math Department

Joining the math department to teach Geometry 9/10 Initiative, and one of four STEP teachers new to Sequoia this year, is Mr. Bitz. Mr. Bitz hails from Tucson, AZ and Sioux Falls, SD and attended Stanford University. In-between his own studies and classes, he found time to be a Teacher’s Assistant for computer science courses and to volunteer in music classrooms at Ravenswood Elementary. 

Mr. Bitz completed his student teaching at Hillsdale High School, and is a 1st year teacher! 

Mr. Bitz found English to be his most challenging course in school, and his favorite course was music. 
Parent Announcements
8th grade Information Night is now virtual!
Each year, Sequoia opens its arms to welcome a new crop of prospective students to the campus for an informational evening. This "8th grade Information Night" provides students and their parents the opportunity to hear from academic department chairs and see curricular and extracurricular programs in action during 10-minute workshop sessions. Given the restrictive parameters of 2020, we have worked to replicate this experience virtually, and have created this interactive presentation.

We will be distributing this presentation out to all of our partner districts and schools, as well as to anyone signed up for our shadowing program this Fall.

For more information click here.
Thank you parent volunteers!
On behalf of Sequoia’s staff, families, and students, we want to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who have offered your support during this challenging year. Together, we have:

  • Prepared hundreds of backpacks and school supplies for students in need,
  • Made over 200 deliveries to student homes since August,
  • Sewn over 700 cloth masks for students in need, and
  • Volunteered over 50 hours to help families sign up for the FRPL program and register seniors for the special SAT exam

As we move into the winter months, we would love your help in three important areas:

  1. Help us supervise new student cohorts studying on campus by applying to become a substitute teacher. SUHSD’s Katrina Grant will walk you through the process. You and a partner will supervise a cohort of 12 students for three weeks, Monday-Friday, 8:30a.m.- 3p.m. No teaching experience required - just a friendly person to monitor and encourage students as they attend online classes and complete independent work
  2. Sign up to support families in need through our Adopt-A-Family Holiday Project.
  3. Join our delivery, technology, health screen, or communications volunteer teams by completing this survey to let us know how you might be able to help. Thanks to those of you who have already filled out the survey!

For more information, email Elisa Niño-Sears, SHSEF Family Support Chair or call (650) 387-8390.
Nov 11: Veterans Day reminder
In honor of Veterans Day, there is no school on Wednesday, November 11.
Nov 20: Making Dreams Come True dinner

Undocumented students will share the challenges they face as they pursue their educational dreams.

For more information, click here: Making Dreams Come True
Make a difference this Holiday season!
SHSEF and the Sequoia Family Center invite you to participate in Sequoia's annual Adopt-a-Family Holiday Gift Project, a tradition started over 20 years ago.

Please click here for more information, or click here to volunteer.
Honey, where should we get our tree?

Sequoia 2021 Grad Activities receives 15% of the purchase price when you buy a holiday tree at HONEY BEAR TREES. Bring this flyer when you purchase your tree.

For more information, click here: Honey Bear Trees
Due Nov 15: IB exam fees
We are still processing IB exam registrations. As soon as we process your student's registration, we immediately mail the official IB Exam May 2021 bill and post the IB exam fee to Infinite Campus.

Thank you for your patience as we are experiencing delays with this process due to Distance Learning. Here is information on how to pay the fees:

Due by November 15

There are three ways to pay:
  1. Pay the IB fees online on your student’s Infinite Campus (IC) account with a credit card. Please note, IC charges a $3 credit card processing fee. IB exam fees will be posted in the fees tab after your registration.
  2. Pay by cash. Bring cash directly to the IB office in Room #130 on a Wednesday. Be sure to leave with a receipt as proof of payment. Discouraged due to COVID but if needed contact Ms. Galvan to ensure she is in the office.
  3. Pay by check. Make check payable to Sequoia High School. Please put student name and IB exams in the memo line. Mail the check to: Sequoia High School, Attention: Magdalena Galvan IB Office, 1201 Brewster Avenue, Redwood City, CA, 94062.

If your family is experiencing financial circumstances preventing you from paying the fees all at once, please contact Lisa McCahon to set up a payment plan. Thank you, IB Office.
From previous issues...
Student Highlights
Meet me in the Media Center!
Check out the Media Center’s latest newsletter, distributed monthly. The newsletter includes links to creative and helpful resources for teachers and students. Follow us on Instagram to keep up with upcoming events, author talks, and more.
That's So Raven
This week in the 11th episode of "That's So Raven" we focus on voting because "if you don't vote, you don't count"! Check us out on Instagram!
Education Foundation Updates
SHSEF Donations at Work
Sequoia High School Ed Foundation (SHSEF) relies on our community’s generosity to achieve fundraising goals, which help bridge the gap between state and federal funding. The funds raised go towards ensuring that every student has the opportunity to reach their highest potential.
This year, thanks to the generous support of our community, Sequoia is able offer:
  • Class size reduction for 5 freshman courses
  • An additional full-time College Counselor to make sense of new guidelines
  • More Chromebooks and tech resources to support distance learning
  • Expanded family support and mental health resources
  • At home supplies and equipment, including art kits, musical instruments, and science and learning materials
To make a SHSEF contribution, donate here.
The Parent Education Series
Parent Ed Logo Horizontal
Nov 13: The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives
William Stixrud, PhD, and Ned Johnson, co-authors of The Self-Driven Child

Friday, November 13, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., Online Webinar

Join us for a San Mateo County-wide parent and community education event to support the health and well-being of children and youth during COVID-19!

In this engaging (virtual) presentation, Dr. Bill Stixrud, a clinical neuropsychologist, and Ned Johnson, founder of the tutoring company PrepMatters, offer research-based advice about how to help children and teens become more resilient, balanced, and motivated for learning.
Nov 17: A Healthy Approach to College Admissions
Dr. Donald Grant, ED, Center for Community & Social Impact, Pacific Oaks College

Tuesday, November 17, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m., Online Webinar

Join us for "A Healthy Approach to College Admissions," a (virtual) event presented by Challenge Success, Stanford Graduate School of Education. Attendees will learn practical strategies to help reduce unnecessary pressure around the college admissions process, and ways to support their student’s overall well-being and readiness for life in college and beyond.
The Parent Education Webinar Series is sponsored by Sequoia Healthcare District and Sequoia Union High School District.
For videos of popular events, visit our YouTube and Vimeo channels, and connect with us on Facebook for the latest parenting news. Register for The Parent Education Newsletter.
Questions? Contact Charlene Margot, M.A., Founder and Director, The Parent Education Series. 
Community Resources and Events
Train to become a tutor on November 17!
Join our community of volunteers ranging in age from 14-96, who provide one-on-one tutoring and mentoring to students. We expect our needs to grow with distance learning, and are seeking volunteers that can commit to tutoring remotely once a week for 30-45 minutes. As a volunteer, you can be part of helping a student improve their academic performance, engagement in learning, and self-esteem!

This is also a great opportunity for students to earn CAS (Creativity, Activity, and Service) hours!

If you are interested in becoming a Healthy Cities tutor, please mark your calendar for our annual new tutor orientation & training which will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, November 17 from 7p.m.- 8:15p.m. RSVP here.

For more information visit and click VOLUNTEER to complete the online application, or email
Do you have questions for our Sequoia 2020-2021 PTSA Board? Reach Isha Bhatt, PTSA President and the rest of the team by sending email to Have questions about Mini Grants? Reach Adrienne Heist & Shannon Chi by sending email to
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